For an incredible and inspiring individual such as Danielle Bush, the term team player applies in two very unique facets. While Bush has gained a legion of loyal fans as a competitor with the Pittsburgh Rebellion in Legends Football League play, she is also a commendable member of the United States Armed Forces.
Throughout the generations, competitors such as Rocky Bleier, Caleb Campbell, Chad Hennings, Bob Kalsu, Roger Staubach and Pat Tillman, among others, have become part of a lasting legacy that has seen many of the heroes of professional football serve in the military. In 2013, Rachel Washburn, a cheerleader with the Philadelphia Eagles added her own unique mark to this legacy, capturing the imagination of fans by serving in Afghanistan.
As the last decade has resulted in a renaissance for female football, reaching greater heights with each subsequent season, the role of hero is one that has deservedly applied to an amazing collection of women making their mark in a pair of traditionally male dominated fields. During the 2017 Legends Football League season, Bush gained such stature, providing the Pittsburgh Rebellion with an individual who would become a role model for fans and teammates alike.
Adding luster to Bushs inaugural season with the Rebellion was the fact that she was surrounded by three other tremendous talents who juggle Legends Football League play with brave military service. Among them are Chelsea Hoffman from the Omaha Heart, who the Rebellion played twice this season, Tiffany Merritt, a charter member of the Austin Acoustic, along with Katie Whelan, who would capture the Legends Cup with the Seattle Mist.
Worth noting, the proud military presence of the 2016 campaign also included Leanne Hardin. A member of the United States Air Force, having also sandwiched time in the Middle East with her gridiron ambitions, she would hang up her helmet following the 2016 Eastern Conference championship game. Having been with the Atlanta Steam since their first season, her strong teamwork philosophy and tireless work ethic quickly established her as a fan favorite.
Those are the exact kind of qualities that have endeared Bush to the growing legion of Rebellion fans, emerging as one of the most admired players. Having first enlisted in 2012, she has risen to the rank of a Sergeant in the US Army Reserve. A skilled Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Specialist who is qualified in HazMat Operations, complemented by a knowledge of FEMA Emergency Response Procedures, it reflects an erudite commitment to improve, expanding her skill set while displaying leadership through example.
From a sporting perspective, Bushs athletic background also involved proficiency on the soccer pitch. The chance to extend her athletic endeavors on the gridiron was one that she could not resist. Akin to so many other women in football, Bushs athletic skills allowed for a seamless transition to the gridiron.
With a strong set of values cultivated through her military service, it provided Bush with a heightened sense of purpose, prepared to play an important role, while ensuring that the main objective was to positively contribute towards a strong team effort. It was the type of approach that mobilized others to aim for excellence, part of a collective drive in which resoluteness and heart were never questioned.
“My military mentality transferred over to the football field in various ways that I did not even quite expect at first. I was a college soccer player, then joined the military and have not really played team orientated sports since. I noticed the difference in my attitude, my determination, my commitment, and my pride.
In regards to commitment, I never missed a practice unless I had to for the military; in the Army they expect you to show up every time. My attitude in a sense where I truly respect my leadership and their value to the team. Being a leader in the military- my soldiers may not always understand my thinking, but there is always a reason for my actions. A bigger picture that they may not see yet.”
As Bush now becomes part of this sensational sorority of gridiron/military heroines, sharing a common ground with these titanic talents, the reality is that these are very uncommon women, providing a sense of courage and enablement for young women to happily pursue their own goals. Undoubtedly, the opportunity to share in this new chapter of her sporting odyssey alongside such personages is one that represents a strong point of pride.
“Yes of course! I root for all the women in general in the LFL. I think it is a tough sport and I commend them all for taking on the challenge of going out there on that field to compete. I am super proud of my fellow service women, and its an honor to be considered with them. I love the Army and I want to represent my branch well, being a great leader and soldier means the world to me.”
Considering that football is practically a staple in Pittsburghs sporting conversation, the opportunity to be part of a new era for one of Americas finest sports cities was one that presented Bush with tremendous splendor. Raised in the Pittsburgh area, her lauded presence allowed for the Rebellion to benefit from having another home-grown hero in its ranks. Among the other talents raised in Pennsylvania included former Cleveland Crush star Remy Olinzock, who spent her formative years excelling in multiple sports (including flag football) in Harrisburg.
Competing on the defensive side of the ball, the fascinating aspirations of this dazzling athlete reached an apex once she graced the gridiron for the first time in the Rebellions yellow and black colors. Employing a tremendous maturity, Bush found comfort in the unified effort, one which saw a promising group of athletes transform into a close-knit family. Serving as a source of both motivation and inspiration, it also helped serve as the backbone for one of the leagues finest team cultures.
As the season progressed, Bush developed lasting friendships with her Rebellion sisters. The emergent admiration was definitely mutual, as this diverse gathering of marvelous women each brought their own personal experiences to the club.
While Bushs military career was one that brought with it tremendous appreciation, it was also reciprocated. All coming from unique professional backgrounds, the ability to juggle demanding yet fulfilling careers with the tireless effort of playing for a newly formed team that also results in working towards helping build a fan base was one that Bush empathically understood.
“I am a Pittsburgh girl through and through, and it was awesome to be one of the first females to wear the uniform for my city. It is exciting that the LFL chose Pittsburgh for an expansion team, and I knew I wanted to take a chance and represent for the black and yellow.
There are a lot of challenges when starting anything brand new, but we were individually determined as players, teammates, and coaches to be better. They are family to me, and I still see my girls often in the off-season.
It is truly empowering to be around hard working, successful women that excel not only on our team but in their personal lives. I share the field with engineers, project managers, authors, innovators, fitness instructors, and many other career paths that I find to be inspiring. I am honestly such a thankful person for the sisters I have made on the team.”
With 2017 having represented the Rebellions expansion sojourn, the chance to be part of the Iron Citys gridiron history brought with it a strong sense of attainment for Bush, who emerged as a proud hometown hero for the increasing legion of supporters. Although the club endured the obligatory expansion woes, the fact that its roster quickly gelled, remaining competitive in games, their collective efforts keeping the scores rather close, all positive signs that a sophomore slump should not take place next season.
During this season, one date in particular, June 10, 2017, provided Bush and her teammates with a tremendous feeling of attainment. Through persistence, the Rebellion bounced back after two hard-fought losses to experience the milestone of its first win. Testament to the character of the team, who refused to define the word quit, it was a pinnacle that presented Bush with a sensational season highlight.
Hosting the Omaha Heart at Highmark Stadium, it was a must-win situation for the Rebellion, looking to keep their postseason hopes alive. With Sonia Osselborn unable to compete at running back, Astrid Cruz filled in brilliantly. Amassing 43 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half, the Rebellion enjoyed a 14-13 lead at halftime.
Before suffering an injury in the third quarter, Omaha quarterback Alex Drake connected with Lindsey Howell for a touchdown pass, as Omaha reclaimed the lead. With Bush competing on defense, sometimes part of formations where five players were on the line of scrimmage, it was a solid effort that effectively shut down Omahas offense for the rest of the contest.
In dramatic fashion, the outcome of the game was dependent on the Rebellions final possession. With Morgan Spencer, a former quarterback with the Baltimore Charm, taking on the same role in Pittsburgh, she would orchestrate a scoring drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Jolie Efezohae. With the score 20-20, Spencer displayed tremendous poise, gallantly connecting with Efezohae on a conversion that saw the squad regain the lead with less than 40 second to play.
Riding a wave of momentum, Bush and the other members of the defense assertively nullified Omahas sputtering offense, securing the lead and the victory. Providing prestige to this pioneering moment was the fact that the dramatic defeat of Omaha took place at home, allowing the ecstatic fans with a shared sense of history. The result was a scene of euphoria, as Bush and her teammates stormed the field, a jubilant sea of yellow uniforms adorning the vast green expanse of the field.
“My favorite moment was when we gained the FIRST franchise win for Pittsburgh Rebellion. There are not even words to explain the feeling when the clock hit 0:00 in the 4th quarter, and we knew we had the victory. We fought every quarter to gain the lead and it came down to the last minute in the game against the Omaha Heart in our city, on our field.
I remember we were running around the field and celebrating with one another. I cannot even explain the rush of working extremely hard as a team and finally seeing a glimpse of success. I was so proud of us! I am still smiling just talking about it.”
Considering that Bushs military experiences allow for a range of numerous settings, her high level of disciplined allowed the opportunity to nimbly adapt. The sense of pride that came with representing her hometown was part of a richer, much more compelling narrative.
Bringing a heartfelt sincerity, Bushs efforts not only seized the hearts and minds of the Rebellions local fan base, it was a portrait of loyalty. Not just loyalty to her community, but an extension of the allegiance that comes with serving in the Armed Forces, setting a standard for others to emulate.
Reflecting on the season, Bushs sentiments echo a much bigger victory. Although defeating Omaha represented a key moment in franchise lore, the feeling of support enriched Bushs unique stamp in Pittsburghs fabled sporting ethos. With members of the military community making their galvanizing presence felt through attendance at Bushs home games, it was a display of teamwork that only made the journey of donning the Rebellion colors much more worth it,
“My determination and pride was constant, not only am I representing my city but also my service to this country. I am not just a football player on the field, people know that I am a Soldier. I have to conduct myself in a positive manner and give my team everything that I have in me, just as I do in the Army.
My Company has been very supportive about playing for the LFL. A few have even attended a game to cheer me on. I appreciate that so much, and its incredible to know I have their support. For the Omaha game in Pittsburgh, a Soldier from West Point drove to attend the game. How amazing is that?
I have so many service men and woman reach out to me about playing, asking to see a game and sending their encouraging words and thoughts. I love being an American Soldier and I love being a Pittsburgh Rebellion, it has been a blessing to be able to represent both.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”